Kiswahili to be optional in KCPE

What you need to know:

  • New policy allows the Standard Eight learners to opt for sign language test

Kenya has made a decision that appears to downgrade the importance of Kiswahili at a time when East Africa’s lingua franca is expected to play a bigger role in regional integration.

The subject will no longer be a compulsory paper in the Standard Eight national examinations, according to a new government policy.

Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination candidates can forgo Kiswahili and instead be tested in Kenyan Sign Language, which will be examined for the first time this year.

An estimated 700,000 pupils are expected to register for the KCPE examinations this year.

Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) boss Paul Wasanga said no candidate would be allowed to sit both Kiswahili and sign language.

The announcement signals a major policy move since Kiswahili is the national language. It is also the most commonly spoken language in the region.

The proposed draft constitution has recommended that the language become an official language, giving it status similar to that of English.

Kiswahili has been compulsory language in both primary and secondary school examinations.

According to the new circular, candidates will be examined in seven subjects though sitting six papers.

The papers are: English, Kiswahili, Kenyan sign language, Maths, Science and Social Studies. Pupils must choose between Kiswahili and sign language to ensure they are graded on five subjects as required by the syllabus.

Mr Wasanga asked education officials to ensure teachers and pupils are made aware of the new rule.

Rejected contents

News of the circular that was copied to provincial and district education boards came just two weeks after secondary school teachers rejected contents of a related document on new school subjects.

During the Form One selection on January 8, Kenya Secondary School Heads Association chairman Cleophas Tirop called for the withdrawal of two simpler school subjects — alternative B maths and general sciences — to be tested at the Form Four level this year.

The rejection came after Knec announced that each school will have to register all its students for either alternative A or alternative B subjects.


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